Karen Miller: Border Patrol, Don’t Board Our Buses Without Probable Cause or a Warrant

Oct. 19, 2018 – Karen Miller is President, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1700

When I first started working at Greyhound 28 years ago, I was told that I would never be able to drive a bus. I’m a woman of color. But I got trained, and I became a bus driver. Soon after, I joined Local 1700 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, and today I am the local’s president.

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Local 1700 represents 3,500 Greyhound drivers, mechanics, and terminal workers. My job, as the president, is to advocate on behalf of our members for fair pay, safety, and wellbeing. But today, I’m advocating for our customers by urging Greyhound management to stand up for our passengers and tell the U.S. Border Patrol that it cannot board our buses without probable cause or a warrant.

With greater frequency over the past two years, Border Patrol agents across the country have been boarding our buses and asking our passengers, especially customers of color, to show their papers. Passengers who are unable to provide documentation showing that they are authorized to be in the United States are then taken off the bus and processed for possible deportation.

By not requiring the Border Patrol to have constitutionally adequate suspicion before boarding, Greyhound is allowing the federal government to violate our passengers’ constitutional rights. Racial profiling, harassment, and discriminatory searches and seizures are prohibited by the Constitution, as the Supreme Court has made clear when interpreting the exact law that Border Patrol operates under. Our passengers are people who have paid money to ride our buses safely and with dignity. It is incumbent on us not to allow Border Patrol agents to board the buses and interrogate them without adequate suspicion.

I’ve seen this happen before. I used to drive a Memphis-Dallas Greyhound bus, and law enforcement would sometimes stop my bus, search it with dogs, and ask for IDs, mostly from people of color. I hated it then, but now it is happening more often, and the consequences are devastating for our passengers and their families. At a time when our government has implemented inhumane and cruel immigration policies — such as separating children from their parents, holding families in indefinite detention, and deporting people who have been in the country for decades — we cannot allow this to happen.

Greyhound management has claimed that upholding the Constitution would endanger our drivers, but that’s not true. This is not about challenging or criticizing law enforcement. We respect and depend on officers who act to protect public safety based on legally sufficient reasons.

If Greyhound were to inform the government that it will not allow Border Patrol to board its buses without probable cause or a warrant, our drivers would not do anything differently. But our union members and passengers would know that Greyhound is living up to management’s public pledges to do “everything legally possible” to ensure their journeys are respectful and dignified.

If management writes a letter to the Department of Homeland Security formally objecting to Border Patrol’s practice, it would become a legal matter, not something for individual drivers to implement. Unfortunately, Greyhound, perhaps fearful of a government backlash, has been unwilling to take a stance. Management should join us in understanding that this is about passengers and their constitutional rights, not politics.

Our passengers are our customers. Their money pays our salaries. We treat them equally and believe along with Martin Luther King Jr. that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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